Chef Travis Myers: Staying True to his Southern Roots, with a Modern Twist
Chef Travis Myers was born a triplet in Davidson County, in rural North Carolina. Myers traveled widely and embarked on a career in retail, landing jobs with The Gap and Banana Republic. Although he liked working in stores (“It’s all hospitality,” says Myers of the experience), he sensed something big was missing. That something was cooking—Myers had spent his teenage years by his mother’s stove learning her traditional Southern recipes and smoking pork shoulders over hickory coals with friends.
So, Myers enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America. Afterwards, he headed back home to North Carolina. “Cooking brings everyone back home,” the chef reflected. “Those of us who love to cook are driven to recreate memories through flavors every day.”
Fresh out of CIA, he took over the kitchen of River Birch Lodge in Winston Salem, NC. He loved being a part of the community that mattered so deeply to him, and Myers got to make delicious use of the cooking skills he had learned both from his mom and at school.
In 2015 Myers left the Lodge to operate and reinvent Willow’s Bistro, located in the heart of downtown Winston-Salem. “We take pride in what we do,” says Myers of the farm-to-table restaurant, where he helms the kitchen. “We have great friendships with our farmers. I love showing off what they do. I help keep them in business, and they do the same for me.” In addition to fruits and veggies from local farms, Willow’s Bistro showcases products from North Carolina artisans, brewers, and distillers.
Myers believes that excellent food begins with high quality ingredients, so he is incredibly discerning when it comes to selecting the best. “Whatever I’m looking for, I’m looking for the best in the world,” Myers says. His approach has clearly resonated among his peers – the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association named Myers Best Chef of the Year in August at the annual NCRLA Chef Showdown competition.
Chef Myers was introduced to Beemster many years ago, and it has become his gold standard for cheese. “It’s some of the best stuff I ever tasted,” was his initial reaction to Beemster XO, and he continues to seek out the cheese.
At Willow’s Bistro, Myers grates Beemster Classic over pork rinds. He also uses Beemster XO to finish his house-made pasta, nestling an egg yolk in a bowl and topping the whole thing with a generous handful of cheese. “It’s not traditional, but I’m happy to break with tradition because it’s so good. It’s dynamite,” exclaims Myers. “The Beemster melts so well. With the crystals, the rich flavor, the balanced saltiness—it’s comfort food to me.” He also serves Beemster cheeses on a meat and cheese board, alongside Lusty Monk “Original Sin” whole grain mustard and spicy soppressata.
Myers is such a Beemster fan he enjoys it after hours, too. “My wife and I get a wedge of XO, some lavash, and a nice bottle of wine,” the chef explains. “That’s date night.”
Chef Myers serves on the board of the Piedmont Culinary Guild and at Triad Local First, a non-profit organization that supports small businesses in the Greensboro community. He’s a big fan of all things pork and is a firm believer in nose-to-tail cooking and eating. He loves traditional pit cooked barbecue—especially with some (nontraditional) aged Beemster on top.